Friends, family, classmates mourn loss of 6-year-old girl

COLLINS -- Sarah Bouss' kindergarten class went on its all-day "Back to the Wild" field trip as planned Monday. Because of her tragic, unexpected death two days earlier, Katrina Gail "Nina" Cleavenger wasn't there. The rural Norwalk girl died unexpectedly at her home the morning of May 22. "In the blink of an eye, the hopes and dreams of this little girl is gone. ... What a tragedy," Western Reserve Elementary Assistant Principal Melanie Conaway said.
Cary Ashby
May 31, 2010

COLLINS -- Sarah Bouss' kindergarten class went on its all-day "Back to the Wild" field trip as planned Monday.

Because of her tragic, unexpected death two days earlier, Katrina Gail "Nina" Cleavenger wasn't there. The rural Norwalk girl died unexpectedly at her home the morning of May 22.

"In the blink of an eye, the hopes and dreams of this little girl is gone. ... What a tragedy," Western Reserve Elementary Assistant Principal Melanie Conaway said.

She said the girl's classmates seem to be doing well in the aftermath of learning about Nina's death. But things still were subdued at school Wednesday.

"Yesterday was a quiet day," Conaway said.

"From (what) the teachers (said), the kids did very well," she said.

"The kids were great. They sat down and had a group conversation," Conaway said. "One of the kids said, 'We need to pray for Katrina.' That was the biggest comment."

One parent was moved to write a letter to Western Reserve Local Schools Superintendent Rodge Wilson about Nina. Bouss' class is making a memorial for their classmate.

"Obviously it's not an easy time for anyone," Conaway said.

One of the girl's sisters, who is graduating Sunday, took her final exams this week, despite being told she could delay taking them and still participate in the graduation ceremony. Conaway said Nina's sister didn't want special treatment.

"'I'm like everybody else. I have to take my exams like anybody else,'" the administrator said, quoting the sister.

Nina attended kindergarten three days a week -- Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Conaway said the fairly quiet girl was looking forward to finishing school, but she was even more excited about a family trip to Thailand to see her grandparents. The couple hadn't seen Nina since she was 1.

The family, including Nina's mother who is from Thailand, still will be going overseas.

"It's important for Mom to have closure with her family," Conaway said. "They had been planning and saving for the trip for years."

Huron County Coroner Dr. Jeffrey Harwood has said the girl died of natural causes in her sleep. He estimated the cause of death wouldn't be available for about a month.

"She basically died in her sleep. ... She was a healthy child," Harwood said.

On Monday, one counselor each from the elementary and high schools were available for grief counseling. Conaway, who was a school counselor for seven years before becoming assistant principal, also was on-hand as was a Western Reserve teacher who has been trained as a counselor. Also called in was a substitute teacher who had been in Nina's class many times.

"There were some parents who knew (about Nina's death) because the parents had talked to their (children)," she said.

Born Nov. 18, 2003 in Norwalk, Nina loved camping, reading, and doing her homework, according to her obituary. Her family said Nina "was deeply loved and will be greatly missed."

Conaway shared a few thoughts about the young girl.

"She was fun, loving 6-year-old. She was looking forward to the last six or seven days of school," she said. "She was ready to start riding her bike without training wheels."